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Jol Byerley’s Sept 05 Letter from Antigua

What better way to start this month’s piece than to give you
the entire front page of Andrew Robinson’s brochure about his company,
Woodstock Boat Builders Ltd.

“ Woodstock Boat
Builders was founded in 1990 by Andrew Robinson who trained at the prestigious
International Boat Building Training Centre in Lowestoft, England. In 1998, he
was joined by Vincent White and together they are offering a service regarded
as the most dynamic yachting refit service in the Caribbean. The Company is
known throughout the luxury yacht industry for its high quality workmanship,
reliable and efficient service and aesthetically pleasing designs. Whether you
need a full refit, an innovative new design or minor repairs to match your
existing ambience, we at Woodstock have the team to put your mind at rest and
complete the project efficiently to prime standards.”

So there you have
it! Andrew himself is a scholarly looking young man whose business has grown by
leaps and bounds in a very short time. He sometimes has as many as 60 employees
working on his various projects, which have included Shamrock I,
, Unplugged, Talitha G,
Morning Glory
and Victoria of Strathearn.

But to me, perhaps
the most exciting thing is that Woodstock are actually totally rebuilding the
beautiful Fife designed and built 6-metre
. I remember her when she first came to Antigua and I was lucky enough
to sail her in several Thursday races. Of course, she was fairly old having been
designed and built by Fife’s wonderful yard in 1929. Just about everybody fell
under her spell but nobody started to rebuild this beautiful little ship. Her
last owner, Paul Deeth, came very close but when he sold his hotel the dear
boat somehow became a victim of a bulldozer and most people thought it was the
end. Despite the boat having a broken lead keel, Andrew had her moved to his
boat yard complex close to the shores of Falmouth Harbour in Antigua. Then, bit
by bit, he acquired as much information as possible from the British Six Metre
Association, and with Aussie James Brooks as the foreman builder, the little
that remained was pulled apart and a brand new but authentic Six Metre to
William Fife’s lines began to take shape.

Now, I haven’t
been as excited as this since my old friend and neighbour Billy May on the
banks of Norfolk’s River Thurne told me that he was building his own boat to
race in the summers. She was going to be called Kestrel and was entirely different from the very traditional
designs of the Norfolk Broads and Rivers. It turned out that
won just about everything she
went in for but unfortunately I was to leave Norfolk for the Mediterranean and
then Antigua in the West Indies. I only saw Billy once or twice after that, but
what a beautiful little boat she was. Clinker or Lapstrake-built with a fairly
modern Bermuda rig, Kestrel was a

So now, our own
Andrew Robinson – in whom I have the upmost faith – is rebuilding the epitome
of 6-metre grace, the William Fife Nada.
She could be ready in November or December and I really hope that I will be
around when she takes to the water. Andrew hopes that this is just the
beginning and that many traditional yachts will be built by his first class
team a stone’s throw away from the calm waters of Falmouth Harbour. Other
islands of course have tried to get into the building of quality yachts but,
rather strangely, this most laudable attempt has never really succeeded. But
with a little bit of luck, and holding in mind that some of the world’s most
beautiful vessels will be tied up at Falmouth Harbour’s three marinas,
Woodstock Boat Yard will most probably get the exposure it requires when it
comes to rebuilding the Six Metre Class.

Woodstock actually
started in 1990 with a small shack and a bag of tools. And a Tee shirt that
boldly proclaims, “What wood would Woodstock stock if Woodstock would stock

It seems really
hard to believe that all the islands of the Caribbean are under a hurricane
threat this year. Why? Well, because I remember only too well that in the days
of Mollihawk, Caribee, Ron and
Lord Jim
I used to carry on chartering
throughout the summer months and seldom if ever had a darn thing to worry
about. Even recently, Judy and I would take our Dehler 34 Hightide down to Venezuela’s long and lovely coast and again never
had any worries. Then suddenly along they came. One after the other and I don’t
mind admitting, you wouldn’t catch me out going for that sort of little cruise
in summer time. So I wonder, is this sort of thing going to change? Because
it’s too busy in the season to use ones boat isn’t it?

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